The Katie Underwood is the main ferry serving Sapelo Island. Its namesake, Katie Hall Underwood (1884-1977), was born on Sapelo and began working as a midwife in the 1920s. She assisted almost every birth on the island until retiring in 1968 and was among its most beloved citizens. She was the last in a long line of midwives who served Sapelo from slavery days onward. Mrs. Underwood lived in the north end at Raccoon Bluff but carried her black bag all over the island, to the scattered communities of Hog Hammock, Shell Hammock, and others. A story is told of her delivering a baby on the north end one morning and walking seven miles to the south end to deliver another in the evening. She is said to have never lost a child during delivery.
The ferry was dedicated on 28 October 2006. It was built by Geo Shipyard in New Iberia, Louisiana.
The interior has seating for 102 passengers.
The boat is 70’9 3/4″ in length and has a maximum speed of 26.6 knots. It’s powered by two Caterpillar C-18 engines rated 700 hp.
A covered upper deck provides open-air seating for 48. 10 additional seats are located on the bow.
Like all roads on Sapelo, the road to Cabretta Beach is devoid of even a stop sign and it’s usually a rough ride.
One of the prettiest views on the island is Blackbeard Creek as seen from this wooden bridge, built by the Department of Natural Resources.
Blackbeard Creek separates Cabretta Beach from Blackbeard Island, which is visible in the distance from the bridge.
At the north end of Sapelo Island is Cabretta Beach, sometimes referred to as Cabretta Island for its isolation at high tide. If you can imagine a place more isolated than Nanny Goat Beach, Cabretta might come to mind.
The only land-based point of access is the Cabretta Campground, which requires reservations. It’s a pristine natural area with a small comfort station and a canopy of Live Oaks.
A short walk through the dunes provides access to one of the most undisturbed beaches in Coastal Georgia.
Sea Oats are dominant here, as they are on all of Georgia’s Sea Islands.
Like Nanny Goat Beach, Cabretta is a prime example of a barrier island environment that has never been developed.
It remains a favored fishing and crabbing spot for the Gullah-Geechee people who call the island home.
Evidence of the earliest known people in Georgia can be found on Sapelo Island in the form of the Sapelo Shell Ring Complex. Shell rings are also known as middens. Three separate doughnut-shaped mounds rise up to 20 feet above the tide line. Formed from oyster, clam, mussel, and conch shells, the largest ring is nearly 255 feet in diameter.
As landmarks go, they’re almost imperceptible, blending harmoniously into the surrounding maritime forest. But these ancient trash piles are keys to understanding early habitation on the Sea Islands. They’ve been documented in South Carolina and Florida, as well. Carbon dating has placed their construction beginning around 2170 BC, but their massive size is the result of successive generations of Late Archaic people.
While it was initially believed that the rings were built all at once, like later Mississippian mounds, present research indicates that they were never intended to be monumental structures but simply grew as people discarded trash behind their circular villages. These early settlers likely understood that they afforded protection to their villages as they grew in size.
Due to the incursion of the maritime forest, it’s difficult to envision these mounds as separate monuments but it’s obvious that they created a new topography. Research is ongoing.
This is my favorite beach in Georgia, characterized by pristine dunes and miles of “no people”.
It’s also the nearest beach to Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, one of the largest near-shore live-bottom reefs in the Southeast. It’s located sixteen miles east of Sapelo Island.
A small tyrant flycatcher, this Eastern W00d-Pewee (Contopus virens) was busy catching bugs, which are in great abundance on the island, near the Farmers Alliance Hall during my last visit. I was glad to get a shot of him at work.